'If it's not on...': heterosexuality for HIV positive women

Sonia Lawless, June Crawford, Susan Kippax, Mary Spongberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


While there is a small amount of literature which considers the impact of an HIV positive diagnosis on one's life very little of it has considered how HIV affects the lives of women or how living with HIV affects women's sexuality and relationships. Based on in-depth interviews with 24 women living with HIV/AIDS, utilising a grounded theory approach, this paper begins to consider how living with HIV impacts on women's sexuality and relationships. The impact of messages that HIV positive women receive and the dominant discourses around HIV/AIDS and 'safe sex' and heterosexuality present contradictions for women. As a result, various tensions arise for positive women and their partners in trying to negotiate sex, safe sex, and condom use in particular. These tensions work themselves out in ways which depend in part upon the seroconcordance/discordance of the partner(s) and the nature of the relationship, that is, casual or on-going. Findings reveal that positive women are in need of support and counselling which affirms their identity as sexual beings, which upholds the expectation that HIV positive women will and can have a fulfilling sex life, and which recognises that sex can be a source of pleasure for women as well as for their male partners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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